In Germany, the hurdles to obtaining a firearms license can certainly be described as high. But everything is relative and before going into detail, it might be worthwhile to take a look across the borders in other countries.
First of all, two countries that make it very easy to legally own a weapon that requires a firearms license in Germany. These are the USA on the one hand and Yemen on the other. In several states in the U.S., it takes just about an hour to be allowed to buy even large caliber weapons.
There is a so-called backround check (a comparison of the person with a list of the FBI), but this check fails just 0.56% of the people checked per year. It's even easier in Yemen. Find a gun dealer, buy a gun, done.
Gun ownership in Japan
People living in Japan have a little more trouble with this. The Land of the Rising Sun has probably the world's strictest requirements for purchasing a gun. In total, 13 different steps have to be taken. Even to be allowed to take the required firearms training, an application is necessary.
Mental stability, freedom from drugs, financial and family circumstances, possible links to organized crime, everything is carefully screened and a police interview is also part of the process. If everything is actually managed, a single firearm may be purchased, but it must be from a registered firearms dealer and accurately described.
In terms of expected penalties for illegal gun possession, however, the frontrunner is not Japan, but Malaysia. There, illegal gun possession is punishable by death by hanging. While no death sentences have been carried out since 2017, a prison in Malaysia is no Holiday Inn.
What is the current situation in Germany regarding weapons license?
It is, in short, complicated. First of all, it should be defined what kind of weapon is, for which a gun license may be needed. Based on this definition, the weapons are assigned to the respective weapons licenses.
The following weapons fall under the large weapons license:
Well, not all firearms are the same. By definition, a firearm is an engineered device that allows a cartridge composed of a primer, propellant charge, and projectile to be fired. The cartridge does not have to form an interconnected unit, otherwise ancient muzzle-loaders would not be firearms.
By the way, the time limit on this is 1. January 1871. All firearms built before that date are firearms license exempt. Actually it is called: whose model before the 1. January 1871 has been developed. But it comes down to the same thing.
Compressed air weapons
If these are able to give the projectiles fired with them a projectile energy of over 7.5 joules.
If these are able to give the projectiles fired with them a projectile energy of over 7.5 joules. As a rule, here we are talking about airsoft guns.
If these are capable of imparting projectile energy in excess of 7.5 joules to the projectiles fired with them.
What weapons fall under the small arms permit?
1. Alarm firearms with PTB test mark F
2. Irritant weapons with PTB mark of conformity F
3. Signal weapons with PTB test mark F
4. Pepper spray, if it does not have a label as animal repellent spray
For which weapons does not need a gun license?
For most self-defense weapons you do not need a gun license. Still, most are subject to an age restriction.
1. Pepper spray marked as animal repellent spray (from 18 years)
2. CS gas or irritant gas with BKA marking (From 18 years)
3. Electric impulse device (stun gun) with PTB test mark (from 18 years)
4. Crossbows and bows (from 18 years)
5. Knives with a blade length of less than 12 cm.*
6. Compressed air, compressed gas and spring-loaded weapons with test mark F, if the projectile energy they generate is higher than 0.6 and lower than 7.5 joules. ** (From 18 years)
7. Compressed air, compressed gas and spring-loaded weapons with a projectile energy of less than 0.5 joules and test mark F (softair)*** (Ages 14 and up)
*When it comes to knives, there is always confusion because of their uses. There are certain knives or knife-like products that have a blade length of less than 12 cm, but are still banned or not allowed to be carried in public. How these are defined is set out in Annex 1 to Section 1(4) WaffG subsection 2 no. 2 described.
**While compressed air, compressed gas and spring-loaded weapons with a projectile energy of over 0.6 and under 7.5 joules are not licensed, they may not be carried in public or only when not ready to fire for the purpose of transport, such as to the shooting range. Their use is allowed only on private property with the owner's permission, and projectiles are not allowed beyond the boundaries of the property area. The owner of the firearm must be at least 18 years of age at the time of purchase. Under supervision it is allowed to shoot with these weapons on designated area from 12 years old.
***Softair weapons with less than 0.5 joules of projectile energy count as toys by law. They may be carried in public, but may only be fired on private property with the permission of the property owner. If the softair weapon gives the impression of a real weapon, it is not allowed to carry it in public.
Basically, for all weapons, whether with or without a weapons license requirement, their carrying at public events in Germany is not allowed or require a separate permit.
Now that it has been largely clarified for which weapon a firearms license is required, we can move on to the details of how to apply for a small or large firearms license.
Apply for the small firearms license
German legislation is always a bit tricky, which is one of the reasons for the large number of lawyers in this country. This also applies to the small firearms license.
Theoretically, any person of legal age can go to an appropriate store and purchase a weapon that falls under the obligation of the small firearms license. The firearms license does not have to be shown.
However, if this person leaves the store with the weapon in his pocket, he must have a small firearms license with him. The small firearms license only serves as proof of authorization that the weapon may be carried "concealed" in public.
Alternatively, you can order a weapon, but only the person with a small firearms license is allowed to receive the weapon.
Of course, it may also be used to defend oneself in emergency situations. So it makes sense to apply for the small firearms license before buying a weapon.
What are the requirements to carry a small arms license?
In contrast to the large firearms license, the application for a small firearms license does not require a reason why the small firearms license is being applied for, nor is the conclusion of a liability insurance policy or an expert knowledge course with examination necessary.
For this, the authority checks the following points:
- The age of majority
- The mental and physical fitness
- Whether an alcohol or drug addiction exists
- Whether a clean criminal record is available
- Whether a regular query at the constitutional protection does not show any conspicuities
- That the weapons are stored properly
It can also happen that the police visits your home to check if the gun cabinet is correctly set up and locked.
Where can the small firearms license be applied for?
The application is despite nationwide uniform legislation matter of the individual states. This can be sometimes the Ordnungsamt, sometimes the local police, the Office for order or even the city council.
Since there is no clear regulation even in the respective countries, it helps best to simply call up the website of the city or the municipality on the Internet in the place of residence and search a bit, which department deals with it. To apply for the small firearms license online is usually not possible.
Even in times of pandemic, personal appearance on site with all necessary documents is required. After all, the application can be downloaded and filled out in advance.
What does such a small weapons license cost?
The scale of fees is of course also a matter for the states and is quite broadly based. The amounts to be paid currently vary between 30 euros and 150 euros. A firearms license, whether large or small, is valid for three years. After the expiration of this period, a new reliability check is carried out.
What should be noted: The authorities can withdraw the small firearms license at any time if the reliability of the holder is no longer given.
However, it does not stop after applying for a firearms license. It is also advisable to check whether the purchased weapon in the own household insurance is also insured, because firearms can sometimes go quite into the purse.
Apply for the large firearms license
The large license is like its little brother a permit to carry a weapon in public. In order to possess such a weapon, a weapon possession card is required.
The difference can be seen, for example, in the police. A police officer's service weapon is owned by him or her while on duty, but the owner is the police department.
Basically, the requirements for applying for a large firearms license are the same as for a small firearms license, with three major differences. Once the applicant must hold a certificate of competence and usually also pass an examination.
Then a liability insurance with a coverage of at least 1 million euros must be concluded. Much more weighty, however, is that a justification must be given as to why a firearm is to be carried in public. This reasoning is becoming increasingly difficult.
Even persons working in the private protection of persons and objects have only little chance of being granted a large firearms license. Proving to be in such danger in public that carrying a firearm is necessary to protect life and limb borders on the impossible.
In fact, the registration authority currently records about 18.500 large firearms licenses in Germany. That is a proportion of the adult population of Germany of about 0.3%.
But what about hunters?
There are quite a large number of hunters who go stalking in German forests, targeting game with hunting rifles. At the end of 2020, almost 400.000 hunters registered in Germany. Now this group was not about 400.000 large firearms licenses approved.
Hunters receive a hunting license and this is not a firearms license. A hunting license is only valid in conjunction with a weapons possession card. The use of the weapons is limited to hunting and practice shooting. Weapons may only be transported in closed containers, with ammunition and weapons kept separate.
Prerequisite is also here a background check, liability insurance and a state-approved hunter examination after a course of at least 120 hours.